It’s easy to get lost in the information and emotion overload of having a baby. Your attention is naturally drawn to your new little bundle and learning how to be a Mum. Even if it isn’t your first baby, there’s still the adjustment of a new family member.
This causes most women to forget about their own bodies and body health which can result in their recovery becoming compromised. Exercising after giving birth is vital for rebuilding your muscle strength and maintaining good health, posture and avoiding injury.
Exercises you can do within a week of giving birth
Most physicians and physiotherapists recommend getting up and moving as soon as 2 days after your delivery. The sooner you are up and about the sooner your muscles are back in action. Walking is the best exercise you can do. It shouldn’t be vigorous, in fact a relaxed paced walk is most beneficial. Walking is also good for getting out and about in the fresh air and can help with post-natal depression and aid a more positive recovery. Light and steady walking is also safe for Mums who received stitches post birth as there is no harmful physical impact on your body.
Exercises you can do once you arrive home
Once you arrive home with your baby, it is important to set time aside for exercising. This might sound hard when you have a new baby, but don’t worry, you don’t need to take out a gym membership. You can do this in the comfort of your own home and we’ve found making it something to look forward to works really well. Set aside some quiet time, put on some music and even burn your favourite aromatherapy oil to make it a relaxing time.
We also suggest visiting your local physiotherapist who specialises in post natal care as tailored recovery plans can be set for you.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles after birth is important in maintaining the full function of your bladder and bowel. A weakened pelvic floor can lead to incontinence and light bladder leakage which can affect your quality of life. Your pelvic floor muscles are the muscles and tissue that extend from the pelvic bone to the tail bone. They are not visible, but they control a very important part of a woman’s body.
If you don’t know which muscles are your pelvic floor muscles, next time you go to the toilet, try and stop your urine midstream. The muscles you use to do this are your pelvic floor muscles. You will feel them tense up and relax as you do this. Fortunately, strengthening them can be done as easily as this and at almost any time of day.
The most recommended way is to lay down on the floor and to tighten the muscles of this area. Whilst maintaining steady breathing, tighten for 3 seconds and then release. Do this 3 – 4 times, but if you feel any pain discontinue and try again in a day or two to give your muscles times to recover. You can then try 3 quick squeezes in a row and then take a break between to rest your muscles.
Your back is another part of the body that can be placed under a lot of excess pressure after childbirth. Your stomach muscles which support your back are stretched and therefore not providing the usual support. Until you build these muscles up again, your back is carrying extra load. In order to alleviate the pressure you need to rebuild your stomach muscle strength. The most common thought is to start doing sit ups, but this is not recommended post birth.
Abdominal Bracing / strengthening Exercise
The following exercise is safer for strengthening your stomach muscles, especially after childbirth. Laying on your back on the floor, press the arch of your back toward the floor so your back is flat to the ground. Then draw your lower tummy muscles back toward your spine and hold for 5 – 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 – 10 times. You can do this laying down, on hands and knees or even sitting. Make sure you are not in pain, if you feel pain then stop and let your muscles heal for a day or two.
Caring for your back
It’s important to remember your muscles have been through a fair ordeal the last 9 months so you need to adjust accordingly to avoid injury. The best way to do this is use your legs for lifting and avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first 4 – 6 weeks. When you change or dress your baby, ensure the change table is at waist height so you aren’t leaning over. When picking up your baby, use your tummy muscles and legs to support your body and try and keep your back straight. This will help to alleviate unnecessary stress. Your physiotherapist will also be able to give you guides on how to do this.
You will be having regular check up with your physician post birth, but you can also visit your physiotherapist at any time to assist with recovery and treatment. We have both a highly qualified post natal physiotherapist who specialises in looking after mums as well as a paediatric physiotherapist in our team to assist you.